Glossary

Lesson One — Introduction

arid — dry, without moisture

climate — the long-term average weather of a region, including temperature, precipitation, wind and other aspects

climate change — changes in climate over time, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and other aspects. climate change is caused by natural effects, like changes in the Sun, and as a result of human activity.

Colorado Plateau — a geographic region in the western United States that includes the Four Corners states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. The semi-arid region is known for its dramatic landscapes, marked by deep canyons and other colorful rock formations.

desertification — the process in which dry land areas change to more desert-like conditions (sparse vegetation), either through natural or human causes. It is not an expansion of areas of land that are already deserts

drought — an extended period of dry weather

monitor — to keep track of or watch carefully

precipitation — any form of water that falls to the Earth, including rain, sleet, hail, snow, or mist

weather — the short-term atmospheric conditions of temperature, wind, cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation. Short term can be defined by daily, hourly, or weekly.

Lesson Two — Carbon Moves

anthropogenic — caused by humans. The root of the word is Greek: anthropos = human and genesis = to create.

atmosphere — the gases that surround the Earth

biosphere — the living systems on Earth, including archaea, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants and animals

bromothymol blue (BTB) — a dye used as pH indicator that changes color as the pH of a solution changes
carbon (C) — an element that makes up molecules including carbon dioxide gas (CO2), glucose (a simple sugar), cellulose (the main tissue in plants), as well as fossil fuels including natural gas (methane, CH4), gasoline and other petroleum products. Most carbon on Earth is in the form of limestone, CaCO3.

carbon cycle — how carbon (in its many forms) moves between different carbon reservoirs including the air, rocks, oceans, and living things

carbon reservoir — a natural storage place for carbon on the planet, such as a forest or the atmosphere. Carbon can move between reservoirs. For example carbon moves from the atmosphere to plants through photosynthesis.

cryosphere — the portions of the earth that are covered by ice including sea ice, mountain glaciers, and ice sheets. This also includes permafrost, permanently frozen ground.

flux — the amount of flow relative to time; in other words, the rate at which something flows from one place to another

gigaton — one billion tons

hydrosphere — all water on Earth including oceans, lakes, and rivers and water vapor in the atmosphere

indicator — a device that shows the amount of something. A pH indicator is color change test that visually shows whether a fluid is an acid or base. Acids are lower on the pH scale than bases.

lithosphere — the outer crust and mantle of the Earth

Lesson 3 — Carbon in the Past

average — a number that represents the middle value for a set of numbers. It is also known as a mean.

dependent variable — an outcome or condition that is observed and measured. The dependent variable is expressed graphically on the y-axis. For example in measuring change in CO2 in the atmosphere over time, CO2 in the atmosphere is the change being measured or the dependent variable. Time is an independent variable.

extreme desert —an environment in which there are extreme hot and cold temperatures. Extreme deserts support very little plant and animal life.

geoscientist — a scientist that studies any of the Earth sciences such as geology, oceanography, or climate change

ice age — a long period of time during which the Earth's surface temperature is lower resulting in the expansion of ice sheets. This is also known as a glacial period.

ice core — a long cylindrical sample of ice taken through an ice sheet. The samples are used to study prehistoric air trapped in the ice

ice sheet — glacier ice that covers a large area of land, including Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere and Greenland in the Northern Hemisphere

independent variable — the variable that affects or determines the changes being measured. Independent variables cannot be changed by other variables. However, the value of independent variable can change. It is expressed graphically on the x-axis. For example in measuring change in CO2 in the atmosphere over time, time is the independent variable and change in CO2 in the atmosphere is the dependent variable. Time changes in regular intervals that can be measured. But time cannot be changed by CO2 in the atmosphere.

industrial revolution — the period between the 18th and 19th centuries that marked big changes in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transportation, and technology mostly due to machines that burned coal

interglacial — a period of warmer climate between ice ages or glacial periods. The Earth entered the current interglacial period about 12,000 years ago.

kilometer — a unit of measurement in the metric system that is equal to 0.6214 miles

ppm (parts per million) — a unit of measure for small concentrations of substances. One ppm is 1 part of something in 1,000,000 parts of what it is contained in. For example 1 ppm CO2 is one CO2 molecule among 1 million other molecules in the air (mainly N2).

photosynthesis — a process in plants that uses energy from the sun to react with water and carbon dioxide to form glucose (a simple sugar) and oxygen

variation — a difference or change

Lesson 4 — Climate Forcings

forcing —an input that causes a change in a system. A forcing causes a response, or an output

fossil fuels — carbon-based substances formed from the decomposition of plants and animals over hundreds of millions of years ago. The most common fossil fuels are coal, oil, and natural gas.

greenhouse effect — warming of the air around the Earth. Radiant energy from the Sun warms the Earth's surface, which then emits thermal energy (infrared radiation) to the atmosphere where greenhouse gases absorb and re—radiate energy. Without this warming effect, Earth's atmosphere would be about 60°F colder — too cold for life as we know it.

greenhouse gases — gas molecules that absorb infrared radiation in the Earth's atmosphere trapping heat near the Earth's surface. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor.

input — something that is put into a system

lag — to fall behind or delay a response

model — representation of physical objects, systems, or processes in a simplified way. Models can be mathematical, physical, graphical, or computer generated.

output — something that is produced by a system

response — a reaction to something

solar radiation — energy that is transmitted from the sun in the form of rays or waves or particles

variable — any thing, value, or condition that can be changed

Lesson 5 — Carbon in the Biosphere

biosphere — the living systems on Earth, including archaea, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants and animals

cellular respiration — (same as respiration) — a process that takes place within a cell in which energy is produced from glucose (a simple sugar) and oxygen. The products of this chemical reaction are carbon dioxide, water, and energy.

decomposers —organisms such as bacteria or fungi that break down dead or decaying materials into chemical nutrients like carbon and nitrogen to be recycled back into air, soil, and water

glucose — a simple sugar that serves as the main source of energy for organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. In plants glucose is produced during photosynthesis.

photosynthesis — a process in plants that converts sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen for energy

primary producer — organisms capable of producing their own food through photosynthesis, also called “autotrophs” in the food chain. Examples include plants, algae, and some bacteria.

Lesson 6 — Global Temperatures

anomaly — a difference in a pattern or trend

anthropogenic — caused by humans. The root of the word is Greek: anthropos = human and genesis = to create.

average — a number that represents the middle value for a set of numbers. It is also known as a mean.

bias — is a tendency in measurement to provide results that are overly representative or consistently too high or too low. For example, in calculating global mean temperatures, if there are more weather stations recording data in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere, the data in the northern hemisphere may be overrepresented or biased.

El Niño — a climate pattern that occurs when there are unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific

forcing —an input that causes a change in a system. A forcing causes a response, or an output
global average — the temperature near the Earth surface averaged around the globe, with every part of the Earth contributing equally to the value

input — something going into a system

La Niña — a climate pattern that occurs when there are unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific

output — a response from an input into a system

response — a reaction to something

solar cycle — the cycle of how much solar radiation is emitted from the Sun

Lesson 7 — Testing Forcings

anthropogenic — caused by humans. The root of the word is Greek: anthropos = human and genesis = to create.

aerosols — very small particulates in air. They include gas molecules, droplets of liquid, or fine pieces of dust. Erupting volcanoes eject this mixture into the air.

El Niño — a climate pattern that occurs when there are unusually warm ocean temperatures in the faculae — large bright patches joining around the sunspots

La Niña — a climate pattern that occurs when there are unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific

phototic zone — the upper layer of the ocean where photosynthesis occurs

troposphere — the lower part of the atmosphere, from Earth's surface to 12—15 km in altitude

stratosphere — the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere.

sunspots — dark, cool areas on the Sun's surface. Sunspots can also produce solar flares and massive eruptions that can cause power outages and failures in satellites and telecommunications.

Lesson 8 — It Starts with Each of Us

CO2 emissions — the amount of carbon dioxide put into atmosphere through human activities

carbon footprint — a measurement of the amount (mass) of CO2 produced directly during an activity (like driving a car) or indirectly through the creation of a product (like making a plastic water bottle). A carbon footprint is usually measured in tons of CO2 generated from the activity or the product creation.

compact fluorescent light (CFL) — a lower-energy lamp that uses a fluorescent bulb. It uses less power and lasts up to ten times longer than incandescent or earlier light bulbs

energy efficient — how much energy (in the form of work or light) you receive as an output from the energy that went in for this function . Example: a CFL is more energy efficient than an incandescent bulb because you get the same light out of the bulb while much less electricity goes into the bulb. Similarly, a car that gets 30 mpg is more energy efficient than one getting 20 mpg. The goal of energy efficiency is to reduce energy use in all areas of manufacturing, construction, and living.

retrofit — to change something that is already being used, for example, modifying an existing home to make it more energy efficient

Lesson 9 — You Can Make a Difference

alternative energy — any type of energy that is not based on burning fossil fuels. Some common types of alternative energy include wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuel or ethanol

coal—fired power station/plant — a place where electricity is produced by burning coal, which boils water. The steam from the water runs a steam turbine, which turns an electrical generator. The electricity is then transmitted or sent through power lines to electricity consumers.

fossil fuels — carbon-based substances formed from the decomposition of plants and animals over hundreds of millions of years ago. The most common fossil fuels are coal, oil, and natural gas.

hydroelectricity — electricity formed by hydropower. Hydropower is energy formed by moving water.

renewable energy — energy that comes from natural sources that won't be depleted through use, such as the sun, wind, tides, and geothermal heat

turbine — a machine with rotating blades. A wind generator is an example of a wind turbine.

Lesson 10 — Myths